A Bugs Eye View

The ASP’s {{{Rabbit}}} Bartholomew Checks In As The WQS Battle Intensifies for Fifteen Spots on Foster's ASP World Tour

South African Jordy Smith seems to be about ready to Qualify for the WCT after just one year on the WQS
We are in the midst of one of the most intense WQS races in memory. Every year it is tough out there, these guys are up to their necks in the trenches, battling each other on a weekly/daily basis to gain the ascendancy, sometimes inching forward, the following week losing critical ground in the battle for the coveted 15 spots up for grabs on the 2008 Foster's ASP World Tour.

This column will conduct a bit of a stock take; take a Bugs Eye view of all the moving parts. I'll start with the fact that the recent trend of the elite Top 45 Men to totally avoid the WQS appears to have been further entrenched this year. There is hardly a Championship Tour surfer in sight, in fact there is not one single surfer from the Top 27 on the 2007 Foster's ASP World Tour sitting within the Top 15 WQS. The significance of this development is that if this were to continue there would be zero overlaps and we would not go further down past #15 for qualifying.

After a shocking start to the season former ASP World Champion {{{CJ}}} Hobgood has wisely hedged his bets by going to work on the WQS, reaching #17 in quick time and poised to zoom into the Top 15 during this European leg. CJ's status on the Dream Tour has never been threatened, usually due to stellar performances on those South Pacific reefs. He pulled his socks up with a 3rd placing in Chile and sits at #25 on the premier tour and while I expect him to comfortably hold his position he is the only marquee surfer that is covering his ass with a double booking.

Troy Brooks and Luke Munro, while outside the Top 27 bubble at this stage, are also making their moves up the WQS totem pole, whereas Adrian Buchan is trying to relieve Top 27 pressure(he sits #20 after J/Bay), by backing up at #20 in WQS/Land. The lads have got their nose to the grindstone and currently occupy the #19-21 positions on the WQS, a Top 15 berth now within their scopes. Dayyan Neve and Roydon Bryson are next at #27 & 28, and while both are looking to displace their bottom two WQS scores with solid points, they have a job ahead of them.

The reason I say this at such an early stage is that a host of WQS campaigners have gone out there and notched five or six meaningful results, laying a solid foundation for qualifying claims. I just cannot {{{recall}}} a more pitched battle for prime positioning. Counting Lacanau their remains three 6 Stars, three 6 Star Primes and a Super Series event on the Men's WQS calendar. So there is plenty of golden opportunity for movement, anyone could conceivably come out of the clouds to rocket into contention with a purple patch of major placings.

There may not however be as much on the bone as would appear. In October the guys have to make a choice between a 6 Star Prime in the Canaries and a 6 Star in Brazil. The Canaries obviously boats more points and is in a Prime location but the Brazilian event is the first of back to back 6 Stars in the region. Then there is Hawaii. A pair of 6 Star Primes sounds tantalizing on paper, but traditionally it has been difficult to make up ground at Haleiwa and Sunset. The reasons for this are that the {{{Vans}}} Triple Crown is heavily contended by the Top 45 and is generally dominated by these guys, and then there is a layer of local specialists who sit in wait for these events and don't miss their chance to make an impact. Combine that with the fact a lot of young rising talent from around the world lack the necessary experience to build confidence at these testing locations and you begin to get the picture.

Calling upon past experiences, a whole bunch of guys have gone out early and set a scorching pace. With the re-establishment of Prime status there are simply way more points on offer. With such a cracking pace being set with so many major points left to be settled, it is difficult calculating what the qualifying cut-off will be this year. Taking into consideration the fact that Roy Powers sits at #15 at around the {{{9000}}} mark I would say guys would need to be banking 10,500-11,000 points to be anywhere near the comfort zone. There is usually congestion toward the end and this may drop a bit, but mathematically it could be as high as 11,{{{200}}}. The fact that we won't be going much further down then #15 compounds this high average.

Right now Jay Thompson sits on that 11,200 mark and he is sitting #3. To say there won't be some major jostling is an understatement. I cannot conceivably see Jay not making it with 11,200 points, I just can't see 13 guys leapfrogging his position, but as I said, mathematically it can happen, especially with so many events in hand. I would say after the 6 Star in Portugal ends on September 2 we will have much more of a handle on the qualifying equation. What makes it impossible to pinpoint right now is the diversity in results. A good example is Nathan Hedge. He sits at #24, has a 3000 point yield from a 6 Star Prime win, but carries four scores lower then {{{900}}} points in his Best 7 results. Hedgey could go anywhere, probably definitely up, but how far. He could reasonably easily accrue another 3000 points net, which would put him slightly ahead of where Bottle Thompson is right now.

There are a heap of guys with one booming result and a few okay ones that could catapult into the reckoning quick smart. Kieren Perrow, Simao Romao and Aritz Aranburu are in exactly the same place as Hedgey, as is CJ Hobgood. So it is game on for this colourful combination of battlers, tour stalwarts, comeback kings and the legion of rookies that make up the World Qualifying Series. There are so many contrasting stories this year, individuals routes can be tracked, some stories are many years in the making, others are cutting a swathe through the field at their first serious assault.

Dane Reynolds – WCT wildcard and WQS front-runner

I mean, look at Ben Bourgeois, Tiago Pires and Jay Thompson. Collectively they have been bashing their head against the wall for 3 or 4 years on the WQS. All three have come within a whisker of making it, I recall each of them having to make the Final at Sunset and secure a Top 3 finish, only to come up short in the Semi's. That is soul destroying stuff, but to their credit have soldiered on, although one gets the feeling that these are do or die efforts so fat this year. And look where they are, it's proof that hard work, commitment and perseverance pay off. Tiago looks certain to be Portugal's first ever member of the major league, Ben, a former Top 45er, looks to be in the ultimate position to finish WQS #1 and Jay has solid qualifying credentials.

In contrast you have Jordy Smith and Dane Reynolds. These two are arguably the two most exciting talents in the new order; they have certainly set the tour alight this year, and seem to be taking a similar path to Parko, Mick, Kelly and co. They are slicing through the WQS layers like butter and are on target to qualify at their first serious attempt. There is still work to be done, they will need to improve their averages to be a cinch, but with all those point scoring opportunities ahead a backward trend would be way against the grain.

As I said, it is on for young and old. This is an epic struggle, all the best for the Euro leg.